BANGALORE: Following media reports that about 4,531 children in Raichur district were suffering from malnourishment, one B L Patil from the district filed a petition with the Karnataka High Court seeking government action in 2011.
Then, the HC registered a suo motu complaint, and ordered the state to file its reply. On October 12, 2011, the state filed its reply stating that there was no death due to malnutrition in Raichur, which was in contradiction to the Supreme Court-appointed commissioner’s report.
When the HC expressed its displeasure with the state’s contention, the government sought more time.
At that point, Chief Justice Vikramjit Sen said the court would grant more time only under the condition that the state would be held responsible for any more malnourishment deaths. The government was falsely stating that the children were dying due to various diseases, he said.
In 2011, the Department of Women and Child Welfare had said in reply to an RTI query that 2,689 children below six years of age died due to malnourishment between April 2009 and August 2011. In 2011, 645 children died of malnourishment.
When the case came up for hearing on Tuesday April 3, the state said it had formed a high-power committee to take action, and member of the committee and Secretary of Legal Services Authority Vishwanath V Angadi produced a packet containing “nutritious food” being supplied to children.
Justice Sen was shocked to see the packet with no information on nutrients contained, manufacturer’s name and even government seal.
He said, “I suspect you (state) are involved in some dealing. Who is responsible if some children die?” he asked. “Who directed you to form a committee. We strictly instructed you that before taking any steps you have to inform the court,” he said, and tossed the file aside and adjourned the matter.
Member of the Karnataka Commission for Protection of Child Rights Vasudev Sharma told Express: “There are discussions going on regarding malnourishment. Statistics revealed a deeper problem in the system. The programmes that are directed towards controlling malnutrition are not reaching the children.” Sharma said 11,29,947 children were moderately malnourished and 71,605 severely malnourished.
“Mid-day meal addresses only one part of the problem. It is also the responsibility of the families to ensure that children are provided breakfast and dinner. They can address the issue only if they get proper daily wages,” he added.
The Centre allotted Rs 760 crore for the state and the state announced Rs 2,883 crore in this year’s budget for the development of Women and Child Welfare. UNICEF and WHO released funds to contain malnourishment.